Bruxism, or the grinding of teeth, is remarkably common in children and adults. For some children, this tooth grinding is limited to daytime hours, but nighttime grinding (during sleep) is most prevalent. Bruxism may cause several other dental problems, depending on the and the underlying causes of the grinding ,frequency of the behavior and intensity of the grinding.
A wide range of psychological, physiological, and physical factors may lead children to bruxism. In particular, jaw misalignment (bad bite), stress, and traumatic brain injury are all thought to contribute to bruxism, although grinding can also occur as a side effect of certain medications.
What are some symptoms of bruxism?
In general, parents can usually hear intense grinding – especially when it occurs at nighttime. Subtle daytime jaw clenching and grinding, however, can be difficult to pinpoint. Commonly general symptoms provide clues as to whether or not the child is bruxing, including:
- Frequent complaints of headache.
- Injured teeth and gums.
- Loud grinding or clicking sounds.
- Rhythmic tightening or clenching of the jaw muscles.
- Unusual complaints about painful jaw muscles – especially in the morning.
- Unusual tooth sensitivity to hot and cold foods.
What causes bruxism?
Bruxism can be caused by several different factors. Most commonly, “bad bite” or jaw misalignment promotes grinding. Pediatric dentists also notice that children tend to brux more frequently in response to life stressors. If the child is going through a particularly stressful exam period or is relocating to a new school for example, nighttime bruxing may either begin or intensify.
How can bruxism damage my child’s teeth?
Bruxism is characterized by the grinding of the upper jaw against the lower jaw. Especially in patients where there is vigorous grinding, the child may experience moderate to severe jaw discomfort, headaches, and ear pain. Even if the child is completely unaware of nighttime bruxing (and parents are unable to hear it), the condition of the teeth provides your pediatric dentist with important clues.
First, chronic grinders usually show an excessive wear pattern on the teeth. If jaw misalignment is the cause, tooth enamel may be worn down in specific areas. Additionally, children who brux are more susceptible to chipped teeth, facial pain, gum injury, and tooth sensitivity. In extreme cases, frequent, harsh grinding can lead to the early onset of temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD).